Straight comic (and gay icon) Hal Sparks gets the last laugh

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer

Hal Sparks
COMIC AS FOLK | Hal Sparks headlines this weekend at Arlington Improv; gay baiters not welcome.

The Improv Arlington
309 Curtis May Way, Arlington.
Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Sunday at 7:30 p.m. 817-635-5555.

Hal Sparks does a mean impression of a female British robot.

During our phone interview, he was greeted by an automated voice alerting him that he was being recorded. So for the first few minutes, he conducted the interview in the same mechanical tone.

“Is this a good time?” I asked.

“It’s absolutely a good time. And even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t tell you that because I’m being recorded and I’d seem like a dick,” he said before breaking back into his computer-generated Julie Andrews voice: “You are being an asshole to the fellow who’s trying to record you.”

Sparks is one spontaneously funny guy, which he brings to his No Collar Comedy Tour, featuring Texas comedians Richard Hunter and Chris Bonno, this weekend. The “no collar” concept, he says, comes from a comic book fan/rocker point of view that makes wearing collared shirts an enigma.

Despite his explicit role on Queer as Folk, the motorcycle-riding Sparks is definitely not gay. Still, many of his fans can’t separate him from his Michael Novotny character.

“Those people are insane,” he says. “You’ll never sway them from thinking that way, whether it’s a straight character or a gay character. These are the people who see a mime in the park and really think he’s trapped in a box.”

Sparks is anything but trapped, thanks to a wildly diverse Hollywood career. Or careers: He’s been on TV in dramas, hosting game shows and comedic on programs like VH1’s I Love the ’80s, and appeared in movies like Spider-Man 2. He even sings and plays guitar in the indie rock band Zero 1 and hosted the Femmy Awards for Intimate Apparel Makers a couple months ago. This guy’s diverse.

But standup is front and center, at least until his band’s next album drops in the fall. Sparks is in the Richard Pryor/Eddie Izzard vein, preferring to poke fun at universal truths rather than the day’s gossip headlines.

“Topical humor? It’s comedy and it’s worthwhile, but it’s fast food; that’s toilet paper. My comedy style: Is it more brilliant than funny or more funny than brilliant? I’ll leave that up to you to decide,” he says. “It’s more socio than political. A comedian has a responsibility to be a bullshit meter. For me, I think the goal should be not that we give a crap what Paris Hilton did today, but why we give a crap what Paris Hilton’s doing day to day.”

And there’s definitely one media outlet of which he’s not a big fan.

“I have challenged the entire cast of TMZ to a fight and they haven’t taken me up on it. A bare-knuckle fist-fight. The rule is that the entire cast has to come into the ring at the same time,” he says. “Harvey [Levin] can hang out until they’re all done and come in last when I’m supposedly tired. They can wear whatever padding they want and bring whatever stick weapons they want. That’s a standing offer.”

Motorcycle-riding, fight-picking Sparks is good to have on our side because he doesn’t put up with nonsense from people who are anti-gay.

“It’s always funny — in a bad way — when a club doesn’t realize that I have a really open-minded, progressive, definitely left-of-center crowd that comes to see me because of Queer As Folk and I Love the ’80s. They are a smarter crowd. They put up a regular opening comic that drops a couple of F bombs [“fag”] or makes some sort of gay reference and wonders why the audience would bristle or why I would say after the show, ‘Dude, don’t do that fuckin’ joke again or you’re not opening again for me.’ It catches them off guard, but they need to pay attention.”

With several additional projects in the works, from new series to producing efforts, Sparks has definitely ready to hold our attention for years to come.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.